Monday, September 28, 2015

Garden of the Gods, Colorado

This is less of a garden post than the title implies, but Garden of the Gods is the actual name of a Natural National Landmark park just outside of Colorado Springs, CO. The park features 300' red sandstone rock formations against the backdrop of Pike's Peak. And they are quite impressive.

There are nearly 17 miles of hiking trails - from short, easy paved paths to longer nature trails to be taken. The greatest threat to the native plant life in the area is the crowds of visitors (1.7 million) that visit each year - and keeping them on trails, as opposed to trampling plants and compacting soils when visitors leave defined paths. Add in natural erosion, and inadequately managed water runoff to the human impact and you have a recipe for degrading parts of the park severely over time.

It is more lushly planted than compared to the late 1800s. Planting of non-native Rocky Mountain juniper, Ponderosa pine, and white fir. As flammable as these particular trees are, the absence of forest fires, due to human fire suppression measures, has also contributed to its lushness.

There are invasive plants to worry about too. There are crowding ones like New Mexican Locust and Siberian Elm taking up valuable space and competing for nutrients with natives. And there's noxious weeds like Leafy spurge. field staff are also trained to look out for weeds that are invasive in other parts of the state - but are not yet found in the park – like Yellow Start thistle and Purple loosestife.

We didn't spend a lot of time there, we just walked around the paved path in the more popular walking areas (staying on the paths!). It's a stunning park. If you're ever out towards Colorado Springs, it's worth a visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hanging Lake, Colorado

Just outside of Glenwood Springs, CO is a great hiking trail up into the mountains to Hanging Lake. When we got there very early in the morning, we debated on doing the hike because it was raining, alternating between very light to moderately. My wife wanted to continue on. The teenager was adamant about not wanting to. And I was on the fence. Having hiked it, and coming back drenched in rain and sweat, my daughter and I renamed it "Hanging Mom Lake."

It was a one-hour all uphill climb (about 1,000 feet), about 2.5 miles. But it was the Rockies, so it was dry air (except for that rain), and gorgeous scenery at every turn. The trail up zigzagged with a stream with many falls and pools the whole way. The hike was worth the effort - the turquoise colors of the lake are from carbonate minerals that dissolved in the water. The water is absolutely clear.

It was early morning,
so the fog was still lifting.
The lake gets its name from the the plants and mosses that hang over the falls' precipice, as well as the exposed roots of those plants. They are growing with both areoponics and hydroponics naturally.

Normally a very crowded trail, there were very few other hikers because of the weather. We climbed down, taking just under an hour and headed back for breakfast and a swim in the world's largest thermal pool – one immense pool at 98º and another large pool that is 104º year round.

That's how you end a hike!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

My no-longer-horizontally-challenged fence

I finally had a horizontally-oriented fence built. I've been wanting one for quite a while. When you live in such an urban setting, on only a 60'x80' lot size (with a notch taken out of even that), and nine neighbors surrounding us, with six of those actually sharing the fence, fences are important.

Early on, the bamboo seemed like a good idea – blocking
neighboring views, and providing a pretty green backdrop.
The existing fence was a standard 6' picket, not painted or stained, so it's gray and slowly rotting in place. The fence we had installed is only the 30' section at the end of our driveway. Formerly we had bamboo planted there that was invading our neighbors behind us. They are very nice and asked us what we could do to get rid of the bamboo – knowing that it will never be gone completely. Never, NEVER, let bamboo touch the ground unless you own the surrounding acres. Plant in well-constructed unbreakable, invincible pots or troughs. Or line the area for many inches deep with corten steel (the roots don't go too deep).

The fence was falling apart, and the area between our two garages was so engulfed with Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), an old chain link fence, and a large stump, that we decided together to have someone come in and clean out between the two garages and build a new fence. Most fence companies don't do the clean-up portion of the job, nor the bamboo-be-gone digging that would be required. But we did find a contractor that could fit this in between jobs.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Toronto Island gardens

From Algonquin Island. Doesn't it look like something from a Wes Anderson film?
(Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, etc.)
I have lots of posts left to cover the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling from this past June. But I figure I've got all winter to post them, as there isn't much else to post once winter hits.

Each year there's an official Fling photo.
This was taken on Ward Island. Nice view, eh?
The Fling is a get-together of abound 75 garden bloggers (freelance writers, book authors, columnists, garden enthusiasts, and more). The one thing we do all have in common is blogging. Only folks with established garden blogs (and are currently posting) are encouraged to attend. It's not a garden tour for just anyone that likes touring gardens.

In the past they've met in Austin, Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, and, this past year, Toronto. in 2016, we'll visit Minneapolis. I've attended Chicago, Asheville, Toronto – and helped organize the Buffalo fling.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Betty Ford Alpine Garden, Vail, CO

On a recent trip, we visited the Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail Colorado. It's billed as the world's highest botanical garden, and at 8,250 feet above sea level, you'd have to be higher than we were to argue.

It wasn't just alpines, but also mountain-growing perennials.
It's a relatively small garden (and free) that you can visit in less than an hour (unless you're a garden blogger, then you might be able to spend a day there). It's a walkable distance from the center of Vail – we actually rented bikes and were riding around and got to it very quickly.

It's conveniently located adjacent to the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and next door to the the Ford Park Athletic Fields, which is along Gerald R Ford Memorial Highway. Vailians apparently liked President Ford. He brought a lot of media when he visited on skiing vacations in the '70s. The town was only incorporated in 1966, starting out in 1962 as a village established at the base of the mountain for local residents and offered lodging for visitors. By 1969 Vail was the most popular ski resort in the state. In 1988 Vail opened China Bowl, making Vail the largest ski area in North America.


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